Contrast is a part of color choice, but it’s a very specific and important part to consider. What exactly is contrast? It’s the degree of visual difference between the darker and lighter parts of an image, or the way shades of colors correspond to each other.
The strongest contrast is always going to be black-on-white or vice versa. And of course, bright colors on a dark background are going to be high contrast.
The design itself can have a lot to do with the overall contrast, as far as the content and what colors have the most surface area or are the most dominant. A crazy, eye-catching image along with saturated colors will go along way towards increasing the contrast against a neutral background.
Achieving the highest contrast possible is not always the goal. Many people like the subtle look of a low-contrast print. I’m a big fan myself. But it can be a fine line between low-contrast and no-contrast, so it’s important to be careful. This example design shows the difference.
We sometimes print black shirts with black ink when the customer wants a very subtle look, but this is rare. If you are trying to set up something like that, make sure to let us know that it’s your intention, so your order doesn’t get flagged for correction.
Some typical contrast mistakes we see: Navy on black shirts, Light Gray ink on sport gray shirts, and Ice Gray ink on white shirts. All of these are considered low contrast and we don’t recommend these combinations.
Inversion is something fairly common that needs to be done, usually when printing white ink on black garments. Unless you’re some kind of goth art band, you probably don’t want your photo looking like an x-ray.
Sometimes it not easy to tell when something should or should not be inverted. If a skull is black but the eyes are white, it’s negative needs to be switched to a positive image, which often requires a white outline to be added.
Using our Design Studio, it can sometimes be tricky to know which way to go. When in doubt, add a note describing what you’re going for, or better yet, contact a project specialist who can help guide you towards the best result.
I’ll be posting an extended article on the topic, so look for that coming up.
Everyone knows the adage K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and it applies to T-shirt design as much as anything else. I think “stupid” was added just to complete the acronym.
The human eye can only process a certain amount of information at once, graphics or otherwise, and with a T-shirt design you not only have limited viewing time, but you’re usually a moving target. So keep it simple!
Sometimes people get a little carried away with trying to be creative or original, by stacking things on top of each other, using weird angles and composition, and generally creating a chaotic mess with their design.
Other times, its the nature of the design or the number of colors that are adding to the complexity. You don’t want to make people work hard to figure out what is on your shirt.
10. Borders, Masks & Edges
Many designs that we print feature one or more photographs. A photo just sitting on a shirt with plain edges can look boring or even cheap and unprofessional. An easy solution to this is to “put a border on it”!
There are lots of options when it comes to borders and edges. The most simple is a thin white or black border, which can instantly improve the appearance. But maybe you don’t want it to be square– in that case, you can use the “mask” feature in our Design Studio, which gives you a variety of shapes to choose from.
Alternatively, you could go with more of a frame, which is a thicker border, sometimes with beveled edges or fancy details, like in the example below.
Consider your subject. If it’s an anniversary design, you might want a fancy frame. If it’s a tough mudder competition, you might want distressed edges.
A “knock out” is where the background is erased entirely or cut out from the background, leaving the focus entirely on the subject. This can make a huge difference, especially if there are unwanted elements in the background.
If you don’t have Photoshop or another image editing tool, and you’re interested in any of these treatments, put in a special request with your order describing what you want and our Art Department will take care of the rest.
If you want to give it a go yourself, there’s a free image editor online called Photopea that works just like Photoshop. Check it out.
That’s all for now. Hopefully, you have a better idea of the common mistakes to avoid, and you’re ready to create an awesome T-shirt.